Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Published by Flatiron Books on February 6, 2018 (expected)
Series: Aaron Falk, #2
Genre(s): fiction, crime, mystery, suspense
Format & Length: paperback, 329
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Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.
The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.
Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – in just a matter of days she was to provide the documents that will bring down the company she works for.
Falk discovers that far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. But does it include murder?
If I had to sum up Force of Nature in one word, it would be intense. From the very first sentences, this book sucked me in and wouldn’t let go.
“Later, the four remaining women could fully agree on only two things. One: No-one saw the bush land swallow up Alice Russell. And two: Alice had a mean streak so sharp it could cut you.”
This story unfolds from both the past and the present. In the present, Aaron Falk and his partner, Carmen, join the search for Alice Russell, who had gone on a business retreat through the Australian bush land with her colleagues and failed to return with them. The past follows Alice and the other four women on her team as they got lost on the trail and ultimately find their way back. The two storylines are woven together quite intricately and ultimately crash together in the end to solve the mystery.
Harper’s writing uses all of your senses to immerse you in her settings. In The Dry, you feel the oppression of the unbearable summer heat and in Force of Nature, the cold, wet, windy atmosphere permeates through the entire novel. Detailed and evocative, she sets the scene so clearly you can easily picture it in your head.
In addition to the clever plotting and captivating scenes, there is also a full cast of interesting characters with compelling dynamics. We continue to learn about Aaron and his past, and he grows as a character more in Force of Nature, which helped me to feel more connected to him than I did in The Dry. I also felt more able to relate to this story as a whole, I think because of the central story revolving around the five women and their relationships, as they are in the same age range and stage of life as I am.
After all this raving, you may be asking why not a five out of five rating? I had to take a moment to consider this myself. I think what it comes down to is, even with the strength of both Harper’s debut and sophomore novels, I still see the potential for more. I really hope this series continues and can’t wait to see what she comes out with next! Definitely recommended.
*Many thanks to Flatiron Books for providing an arc of this edition! It was my pleasure to offer an honest review.